Poor training methodology: Altitude Masks

Another extremely poor training gimmick is the altitude/elevation training mask. Elevation masks are worn with the intention of restricting airflow during exercise in order to train the respiratory system. Here is the marketing claim from one company that produces these masks: “It’s really simple science. By conditioning your lungs and creating pulmonary resistance, your diaphragm is strengthened, thereby making your lungs work harder. When lungs work harder, the surface area and elasticity in the alveoli is increased, thus increasing your stamina and ability to go harder at your sport.” However, young athletes should not buy into the marketing schemes of one of the worst training tools that you can purchase.

How does altitude training work?

Regardless of the altitude, the percentage of oxygen in the air remains constant at 21%. However, as altitude increases above sea level, the ambient atmospheric pressure decreases, resulting in less oxygen being readily available to be absorbed into the blood. To cope with this decrease in oxygen, the body experiences a number of physiological changes in order to adapt.  Acute changes in the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems include an increased ventilation rate, as well as increased cardiac output. Simply put, this means that both the heart and respiratory system work harder in order to deliver more oxygen throughout the body. The biggest physiological change that improves performance, however, is hematological; the body creates more red blood cells, which allows more oxygen to be carried. These physiological changes that occur in response to low oxygen environments are collectively referred to as acclimatization, and this is the primary reason why some endurance athletes participate in blood doping.  In blood doping, blood is extracted from the body, stored, and then reintroduced at a later date in order to increase the red blood cell count, allowing more oxygen to be delivered, which can increase VO2 max and in turn, endurance and performance.

Why don’t altitude masks work?

Elevation masks attempt to mimic the training environment that occurs when elite athletes train at high altitudes in preparation for a competition, but it is clear that they are way off base when it comes to science. Firstly, it typically takes weeks of living at altitude in order to properly acclimatize.  Strapping on a mask for an hour-long workout a couple times per week is not going to cut it.

Secondly, wearing an altitude mask does not change the partial pressure of oxygen in the atmosphere, and therefore the body does not have a reason to acclimatize and produce more red blood cells.  All it accomplishes is that it makes it more difficult to breathe. Some may claim that this strengthens the diaphragm, which would in turn increase performance. However, the respiratory system is very rarely a performance limiter, as normal blood oxygen saturation levels are typically 95-100%.  Instead, VO2 max and endurance performance is affected by the ability to deliver oxygen (e.g. cardiac output / stroke volume), and the ability to extract oxygen (e.g. hemoglobin count, capillary density).

Lastly, the gold standard of altitude training involves living high and training low.  That means athletes live at a high altitudes (or in altitude tents) in order to acclimatize, but then travel to sea level to train.  This is because training quality decreases in low oxygen environments, and you always want training quality to remain high.  If training quality decreases, there is a diminished stimulus that may not produce an optimal adaptation/supercompensation response.


In conclusion, altitude training masks are one of the worst training tools you can use. Essentially, you receive none of the benefits of training at high altitude, but all of the drawbacks. The body does not acclimatize to increase the oxygen carrying capabilities of the blood, and training quality suffers and you can’t train as hard because you’re wearing a silly looking mask on your face. Interestingly, the effectiveness of properly administered altitude training is still questionable. In one of the best double-blind, placebo-controlled research studies conducted on altitude training, Siebenmann et al. (2012) concluded that there was no difference in performance when a live high, train low protocol was administered.  As a result, speed/power team sport athletes would be better off working on aspects that make a difference in their respective sports, namely speed, power and skill.

LeBron James was shown using a training mask in preparation for the second round of this year’s NBA playoffs. However, just because the best basketball player on the planet uses them doesn’t mean that you should too. After all, LeBron has a track record making poor training decisions, like when he chose to follow the Paleo diet  and  balance on exercise balls in the off-season, resulting in him losing a significant amount of muscle mass, strength and power, and having a very slow (pun intended) start to his season.

Save yourself the embarrassment and leave the masks to comic books.


Poor Training Methodology: Agility Ladders

One of the most popular training gimmicks in strength and conditioning are agility ladders, also sometimes referred to as speed ladders.  For clarity, agility can be defined as the ability to rapidly change directions, while speed simply refers to the ability for an athlete to travel at maximal velocities.  Speed and agility are extremely important for success in team sports, and therefore care should be taken when attempting to develop each quality.

Speed and agility are closely related insofar as they are both affected by the athlete’s ability to apply force. Top speed is determined by the ability to apply force to the ground in a manner that maximizes stride length and frequency, whereas agility is determined by the ability to apply force in order to decelerate the body,  redirect momentum, and re-accelerate explosively at a different angle.  When high ground reaction forces are effectively applied, rate of force development increases and ground contact times decrease.  In layman’s terms, this means that the athlete is applying more force to the ground in a shorter amount of time, which is the key to being explosive.


What factors affect speed/agility?

Speed and agility are affected by a number of interrelated physical characteristics, none of which are more important than lower body strength. Concentric lower body strength acts as a motor that allows athletes to powerfully extend the hips and legs in order to apply force to the ground and accelerate quickly to high velocity.  Conversely, eccentric lower body strength acts as a braking mechanism that decelerates the body in order to control and redirect momentum in sharp changes of direction.  In support, a study by Chaouachi et al. (2009) showed that 1RM squat performance was the best predictor of 5-10 metre sprint ability, while a study by Spiteri et al. (2014) showed that eccentric strength in particular correlated significantly with COD ability.  Other important factors that contribute to speed and agility include inter- and intramuscular coordination, the elastic properties of muscles and tendons,  reaction time, flexibility, balance and body composition, all of which can be improved by utilizing proper strength and conditioning methods.


Why are agility ladders poor?

A video of a fancy footwork drill from Cleveland Brown’s WR Andrew Hawkins recentlywent viral on social media.  Ladder drills may look cool on YouTube, and may be fun to perform, but young athletes should know that these drills have extremely little transferto actual sport performance. The issue with agility ladders is that very little acceleration, deceleration, and change of direction occurs. Rather, athletes repetitively perform predetermined footwork patterns at a constant speed in the same direction and plane of movement. Moreover, ladder drills often cause athletes to tighten up their muscles, which is the last thing you want to do when attempting to run or move fast.  Lastly, athletes often perform ladder drills with the head and eyes down, which is generally not how you want athletes to move tactically on the playing field.


How do you improve speed/agility?

To improve speed and agility, athletes would be better off performing exercises such as Olympic lift variations (e.g. power cleans, hang snatches, and high pulls) as well as squat and deadlift variations at heavy loads (85+% 1RM), which would develop hip and leg musculature and increase an athlete’s ability to apply force to the ground.  Furthermore, athletes won’t get faster if they don’t practice running at high velocities.  High velocity running is a skill, and therefore sprinting drills should be incorporated to refine technique, while accelerations from different start positions to varying distances should be use to practice joint angles for optimal speed development. Finally, plyometric drills such as box jumps, depth jumps, and hurdle hops should be incorporated in aprogressive and safe manner in order to increase joint stiffness, which allows the athlete to bounce off the ground with more elasticity through each step.  This, coupled with appropriate sport practice should be adequate enough to increase performance in speed/agility tasks.



Overall, ladder drills are a poor tool for optimal speed and agility development.  While novice athletes may experience a training effect from their use, it is important to note that ANY training stimulus will produce results in untrained athletes.  Therefore, if an athlete reports feeling faster or more agile after using a ladder, they were likely poorly trained to begin with.  While ladder drills may look cool and fun for athletes to perform, we should be striving to use methods that contribute to the optimal development of high performance athletes, rather than mediocre development of average athletes.

If ladder drills actually transferred to sport performance, wide receiver patterns might look more like this instead of what we actually see occur in the NFL.  This parody clip also went viral on social media, but for the right reasons; reputable strength and conditioning coaches were laughing at and frowning upon poor training practices that do not benefit athletes.

Don’t be the next viral joke of the internet, and stop using agility ladders for speed, agility, and explosiveness.




Poor training methodology: Over-conditioning

One of the poorest trends in strength and conditioning for team sports is an over-emphasis on cardiovascular conditioning.  Speaking from experience, this mindset is most prevalent in ice-hockey and swimming, where “dry land training” is synonymous with “let’s kick the crap out of our athletes”. However, this is also beginning to make its way into other major sports like basketball and football, where speed and power should be the main emphasis once an adequate cardiovascular base has been developed.

Hard conditioning workouts that are often branded as “high intensity” are often actually medium/low intensity, and very poor in quality. Trainers and coaches that subscribe to this mindset of training tend to believe that administering an extremely fatiguing and exhausting workout will make their athletes “mentally tough”, with some coaches even taking pride in causing their athletes to vomit. They believe this equates to athletes “putting in work”, but little do the athletes know that this “work” is of extremely poor quality, and it’s very likely that it is making them slower, weaker, and less powerful, not to mention miserable during the actual training session.


How much conditioning is needed?

The amount of conditioning that one has in their training program is determined by a number of factors including the needs of the sport, the player’s position, tactical style of play, and the current strengths and weaknesses of the athlete.  For example, American football and volleyball players require relatively less conditioning overall due to the amount of ground covered, and the short duration of each play sequence.  In contrast, soccer and basketball players would place a greater emphasis on cardiovascular fitness due to the more continuous game play and repeated sprint ability requirements. Generally, it can be summarized that an athlete has a sufficient cardiovascular foundation when they are able to maintain performance for the duration of their game or event. After this base of fitness is established, it would be prudent to shift one’s focus on other aspects of performance.


Why are “hard workouts” counter-productive?

High-intensity anaerobic activity lasting 0-10 seconds is powered primarily via the phosphagen anaerobic pathway (alactic), which is responsible for explosive, high force/power movements such as sprinting, jumping, and cutting. As high intensity activity exceeds 10 seconds, energy production switches to the glycolytic system (lactic), which powers high intensity efforts lasting up to approximately two minutes. Lastly, the oxidative system is primarily responsible for exercise durations greater than two minutes. While slow to initiate relative to anaerobic systems, the oxidative system is primarily fuelled by fats and provides the highest amount of sustainable energy during exercise.

The most important energy system with regards to speed and power sports such as basketball, football, and hockey is the phosphagen system.  LeBron James, Marshawn Lynch, and Patrick Kane are game breakers, not because of their conditioning, but because of their explosiveness and ability to power away from (or through) their defenders.  The phosphagen system is trained by working on exercises such as sprinting, plyometrics, and weightlifting while adhering to proper work-to-rest ratios. The work-to-rest ratio for speed and power development is typically 1:5.  That is, for every one minute of work, athletes should take 5 minutes of complete rest before starting their next set. This ensures that the quality of work remains high and speed/power is maximally developed.

Contrarily, when coaches push athletes through fatiguing workouts (think repeated hill sprints, suicides, repeated dunks/rim touches, and bag skates) this work-to-rest ratio is diminished and energy production shifts to the other energy systems (work-to-rest ratios for the glycolytic and aerobic systems are typically 1:2 and 1:1, respectively).  This ultimately hurts the speed/power athlete because of interference. The principle of interference occurs when the development of competing physical attributes, such as strength and endurance, prevents each quality from being developed optimally.  As a result, the adaptations gained from hard conditioning workouts develop the endurance-related pathways, but will ultimately hinder the development of the phosphagen system, making athletes weaker and slower.


In conclusion, while conditioning  is certainly an important aspect of performance, athletes are usually conditioned adequately by practicing/playing their sport under normal conditions.  As a result, athletes and their parents should be wary of coaches whose workouts revolve around hard conditioning drills and “mental toughness.”  While athletes may not always be able to choose their sport coaches in school, they should exercise caution when choosing private clubs or trainers, and ensure that they are receiving valuable training that contributes to the long-term development of the athlete. Just because a training session is “hard”, doesn’t mean it is productive, and often times the opposite is true; if a training session feels extremely taxing, it usually means the quality of training is poor, and both time and money would be better spent elsewhere.

Here are a few examples of a basketball workouthockey workout, and football workout that we found quickly on YouTube.  There is lots of yelling going on, but very little quality.  While this style of training might be okay for an athlete who needs to get in shape (still, there are much better methods for developing cardiovascular fitness than this), it would definitely have a negative impact their explosiveness.

There is a running joke between several of my strength and conditioning colleagues that depicts an incompetent coach yelling, “FOURTH QUARTER! FOURTH QUARTER!” while his athletes move through a conditioning drill or exercise at a snail’s pace with a puke bucket nearby just in case “weakness decides to leave the body.”  However, that’s not weakness leaving the body; it’s your strength, power, and explosiveness.

The power of sport

Sport has the power to transcend all barriers in contemporary society, as race, gender, sexuality, religion, status, education, socioeconomics, intelligence – the roots of politics themselves – seemingly lose all relevance once athletes come together onto their chosen battlefield and immerse themselves in the sanctuary of sport, and time stands still as we engage in the centuries-old tradition of competition.  While some may dismiss sport as mere “games,” sport remains the lifeblood of athletes all across the globe; some of us live and breathe sport and others among us cannot imagine a life without it.  The love between an athlete and sport is one of the most intimate relationships in existence, and it’s one that only other athletes understand.

With such a great power at our disposal comes the question of who is entrusted with the responsibility of wielding it?  The answer is the coach.  Like generals of war or elders within a tribe, coaches attain their positions of power through time spent in the trenches, and accumulate wisdom through lessons that only years of experience can teach them.  Therefore, it is our responsibility as coaches to pass down this knowledge, ensuring that tradition and culture of our sports are passed down in their purest forms and live on through the ensuing generations.

Harmonizing Art and Science

To be a successful coach, one must be well versed in several areas including, but not limited to, communication, interpersonal skills, psychology, exercise science, and tactical sports knowledge. This is where the culmination and the marriage of art and science come together to produce successful athletes and sports programs.  I will explore two prominent figureheads in coaching, their philosophies, and how they have influenced my career. First I will examine Bruce Lee, whose philosophies represent the art of coaching.

Bruce Lee tip #1:  Charisma

Bruce had an infectious charisma about him; he was simply such a COOL guy (insert George Costanza joke here), and while I have no background in martial arts whatsoever, just thinking about the guy makes me want to swing around a pair of nunchucks in a yellow jumpsuit. Consequently, the inspiring ability for Lee to have influenced not only martial artists of his time, but a mass of individuals that transcends time and spans across sports and generations, is a testament to the immense charisma he possessed, and all coaches should strive to use their passion and ability to gain the respect and admiration of their athletes and ultimately influence generations of athletes in their own sport.

Using his persona to captivate his audience, he devoted himself to spreading his philosophies on life. Lee stated, “Martial arts has a very, very deep meaning as far as my life is concerned because as an actor, as a martial artist, as a human being, these I have learned from martial arts.” I think we as coaches and athletes can nod along at the life skills we’ve learned through sport – responsibility, teamwork, communication, leadership, respect, etc.  Lee used his passion as a means to teach lessons about life, and though he used a very specific teaching aid in the form of martial arts, Lee believed that “all types of knowledge ultimately mean self knowledge.”  So, it’s imperative for us to look at coaching not only through the lens of our respective sports, but in the greater context as well.

Bruce Lee tip #2:  Adaptability

The second principal tenant of Bruce’s philosophy is adaptability.  In his interviews, Lee frequently refers metaphorically to adaptability using the concept of water; even though water appears soft and serene in nature, it is strong enough to penetrate the hardest of objects when applied in the correct way.  In his most famous quote, Lee elaborates:

“Empty your mind; be formless, shapeless, like water.  If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. If you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle.  If you put water into a teapot, it becomes the teapot.  Now, water can flow, or it can crash!  Be water, my friend.”

While in this quotation Lee was referring to a combative athlete reacting to his opponent, this concept of adaptation is easily expanded to the broader scope of coaching.  A good coach works to understand all aspects of his athletes, the coach-athlete relationship, and the scenarios they will face together.  Armed with this analytical mindset, the effective coach remains flexible, particularly in the face of adversity, and adjusts his coaching or training plan in order to maximize the potential for success. Lee closes his metaphoric discussion by summarizing succinctly that “running water never grows stale, so you gotta just keep on flowing.

Bruce Lee tip #3:  Balance

Another principle tenant in Bruce Lee’s philosophy is balance.  No doubt influenced by the Chinese philosophical concept of yin and yang, Lee believes the key to life is harmony.  Lee stated on the Pierre Berton show that biasing either extreme is not the mark of a good athlete, but rather:

“It’s a combination of both.  Here is the natural instinct, and here is control; you are to combine the two in harmony…if you have one to the extreme you will be very unscientific; if you have another to the extreme you become all of a sudden a mechanical man, no longer a human being.  So it is a successful combination of both.”

When applied broadly to the coaching profession, this concept of balance can be applied to numerous dualities.  For example, a coach must successfully blend science with art, theory with practice, and structure with creative freedom in competition.  Going back to Lee’s aforementioned metaphor, water can both flow and crash.  As a result, it is necessary to balance both and know when it is appropriate to apply either extreme or an amalgamation thereof.

Bruce Lee tip #4:  Simplicity

The final prominent pillar of Bruce Lee’s philosophy is simplicity, and ensuring that what is taught and practiced is effective.  Lee came about this philosophy after a famous fight he had on a San Francisco rooftop.  Despite winning the fight, Lee believed it took far too long to subdue his opponent, and he realized that the kung fu styles he had been practicing throughout his life were too flashy and ineffective in a real combat scenario.  After this, Lee proclaimed that he doesn’t believe in styles anymore in that they are too rigid, and consequently found success by blending several styles of martial arts together.  For this, some consider Lee to be the father of MMA.

Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”

As a coach, there is no need to reinvent the wheel, and there are tried, tested and true methods on what to focus on to achieve success:  In basketball, it’s reading and defending screens; in football, blocking and tackling;  in strength and conditioning, it’s powerful, multi-joint movements with progressive loading.  In sports nowadays, there seems to be a growing trend towards finding the newest golden nugget that will guarantee individual or team success: GPS, heart-rate variability, movement screening, “functional” movements, “core” stability, “sport specific” training – the list goes on and on.  While it’s good to expand your toolbox, it’s essential to focus on the meat and potatoes before you add the garnish.  As Wooden puts it, “if you keep too busy learning the tricks of the trade, you may never learn the trade.” 


In sum, I believe the coaching attributes that Bruce Lee demonstrates, namely passion, adaptability, balance, and simplicity are essential traits to have as a coach, and can collectively be understood as principle ideologies that constitute the art of coaching.  In the next blog, I will cover the science of coaching and Charlie Francis.

Source:   Chew (2014). Coaching Philosophy: Harmonizing Art and Science, KIN 586, School of Kinesiology, University of British Columbia




Getting StrongFirst Certified

I recently attended the StrongFirst Level I Kettlebell Instructor certification.  This was the first SFG course ever held in Canada – held locally in North Vancouver – so I was really excited to be a part of it.  Lots of my fellow classmates who attended the weekend have written blogs about their experience, and I had always planned on doing the same once the website was up and running.

StrongFirst is a school of strength founded by Russian strength expert Pavel Tsatsouline.  But, I think more importantly, it is a family of humble instructors who take pride in training and coaching to an exceptionally high standard using the fundamentals of strength development (i.e. movement, technique and progression). From the StrongFirst website: “StrongFirst is a school of strength that believes that strength has a greater purpose: strength of mind, strength of body, strength of spirit. We believe that strength is a fundamental skill, upon which all other aspects of life improve.”

StrongFirst replaced the Russian Kettlebell Certification, the RKC, as the gold standard for kettle bell certifications.  There are several kettlebell certifications and styles out there other than the SFG including the RKC, HKC, GS, EKG, and Agatsu, however I set out a long time ago that I wanted to settle for nothing less than the SFG – I aspire to be the best strength coach that I can be, so I want to learn from the best and to the highest standard.


SFG Certification Requirements

To pass the SFG and become an instructor, you must show that you are able to perform multiple reps of the following, using a snatch sized bell, with perfect technique:

  • – Double KB Front Squat
  • – Double KB Press
  • – Double KB Swing
  • – Double KB Clean
  • – Turkish Getup

The “snatch sized bell” that you use is determined by gender and weight.  For me, my KB size was 24KG (green for those who are familiar with competition bells). It was either that, or lose 50lbs so that I could use a 20kg bell – definitely not worth it!  It’s called a “snatch sized” bell, because there’s one additional test you need to pass in order to become certified as an SFG instructor – the dreaded snatch test: 100 kettlebell snatches in 5 minutes


Suggested Training for SFG

It’s suggested on the StrongFirst website that one trains for at least 3-months to prepare for the certification weekend, but 6 months is strongly recommended instead. Me being the procrastinator that I am signed up only 1.5 months out.  Throw in an untimely ankle injury and a rough cold, and overall I had less than one month to train specifically for it. Despite my lack of training time, I felt pretty confident since my barbell background should have developed more than enough strength and stamina to get through.  The only part of the weekend I was nervous about was the snatch test; I did one practice run back in March, my first time ever, not knowing what to expect.  Despite my best efforts, I only managed to squeeze out a wimpy 76 reps before time ran out, and I was absolutely GASSED and my hands were torn to shreds.


Snatch Test Requirements

Let’s go into a bit more detail about the snatch requirements. Candidates have five minutes to complete 100 single KB snatches with the appropriate sized bell (24kg for me). You’re allowed an unlimited amount of hand switches, and you can set the bell down as needed in order to rest. You may not, however, touch the bell with both hands at once, nor drop the bell. Also, you still have to demonstrate good technique during this; You must show a good hip hinge, solid core engagement, efficient bell path, and a full and motionless lockout up top. Failure to do any of these things earns you a “no count” and if you get three instances of a “no count”, then the test will be over for you. Only getting to 76 on my first try and with my hands ripping apart, I knew I needed some assistance with my technique since I knew my strength and conditioning levels weren’t the issue.


Enter Tricia Dong!

To get some coaching on my kettlebell technique, I went to my friend Tricia Dong. Tricia is another coach who specializes in kettlebells and tactical fitness. When I learned that she used to be a police officer AND a firefighter, she pretty much immediately became my idol and someone I respect tremendously and look up to, given our similar backgrounds, interests and personalities. What also made me seek out Tricia in particular is that she lives and breathes kettlebells. She’s not only certified under the old RKC, but she regularly trains and competes in Girevoy Sport. Legit.

Tricia was kind enough to invite me to BC Place, where she works, to work on my kettlebell technique. After checking out my swing, squat, press, and getup, she had me do another mock snatch test, this time with only a 16kg (which is all she had on hand). Here’s the full video of my practice test.


Technical Difficulties

As you can see, video doesn’t lie. I was dealing with a bit of shoulder impingement on my left side at the time, which probably affected my bell path, but still Tricia gave me lots of tech to work on. As you can see from the video, my two main problems were:

  • 1.) Receiving position + lockout
  • 2.) Breathing.

These two issues are directly attributable to my experience and habits engrained from Olympic-style weightlifting. Tricia noted that weightlifters usually have difficulty with KB snatch technique because the receiving position in the barbell snatch is so different. Moreover, my tendency to Valsalva in O-lifting is totally inappropriate for a 5-minute met con like the SFG snatch test. As you can see from the video, I Valsalva and hold my breath for every rep instead of “breathing behind the shield”, which leaves me starving for oxygen.  Only when Trish cues me to breathe do I remember that O2 is a good thing…

At the end of the day, I completed this mock test with 102 reps. But again, it was with only a 16kg bell, while I needed to be able to do it with a 24kg in about a month. At this point, I still felt a long ways away..


Sample Training Week

At this point, my test was about a month away. Now that I was armed with what to work on, namely my breathing, bell path, and lockout, I was determined to improve and live up to the StrongFirst name. However, you may be surprised to learn that aside from a bit of technique work, my training consisted of relatively small amounts of actual kettle bell work. When programming, there are two general theories of programming in order to peak for competition: short-to-long, and long-to-short. Short-to-long attempts to harness an athlete’s inherent strength, power, and explosiveness, and once these are maximized, the focus is turned to maintaining these power output for longer and longer durations. In contrast, long-to-short programming works off the strength of athletes with higher endurance capabilities, slowly trying to increase the power output for a given a fixed duration. It is no question I fall under the category of a strength/power athlete as opposed to an endurance athlete. As a result, while I remained cognizant of the things I needed to work on, I continued to build upon my strength, which was strength itself.

Here is a rough outline of one of my sample training weeks.  As you can see, the majority of the training consisted of heavy barbell work, while the actual kettlebell work only consisted of very light snatch technique (12-16kg), light/medium clean & press technique (16-24kg), and heavy TGU technique (32kg).  Please note this outline is merely a sample of what I programmed based on my circumstances, and I would not necessarily recommend it for everyone.  It does illustrate, however, that you do not have to inundate yourself with monotonous KB work for the entire training plan.  In fact, this is something I specifically looked to avoid.

[table_row][table_cell_head] Day 1 [/table_cell_head][table_cell_head] Day 2 [/table_cell_head][table_cell_head] Day 3 [/table_cell_head][table_cell_head] Day 4[/table_cell_head][table_cell_head] Day 5[/table_cell_head][/table_row]

[table_row][table_cell_body] Power Clean [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] KB Snatch Tech[/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] Hang Snatch [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body]KB Snatch Tech[/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] Full Clean [/table_cell_body][/table_row]
[table_row][table_cell_body] Bench Press [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] KB Clean+Press Tech [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] Overhead Press [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] KB TGU Tech [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] Close Grip Bench [/table_cell_body][/table_row]

[table_row][table_cell_body] Back Squat [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] Tempo [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] Jumps  [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] Tempo [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] Front Squat [/table_cell_body][/table_row]

[table_row][table_cell_body] Chinup [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] Throws [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] Pullup [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] Throws [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] Chinup [/table_cell_body][/table_row]


Three, two, one, go…

After about almost a month of this training, I decided to redo the true 5-minute snatch test using the now daunting 24kg bell. One of the other things I forgot to mention that Tricia helped me with was strategy. I learned there are numerous different strategies and rep-schemes that are used to help manage fatigue throughout the test. These vary from a basic 10-10 alternating scheme, to a 7-5-3 rep scheme with prescribed rest in between. To be honest, I can’t remember the exact rep scheme I tried for this particular trial run; I just know I wanted to get off to play off my strengths, get off to a strong start, and hope to be able to maintain the pace as best I could until I reached 100 reps.


…98, 99, 100!

SUCCESS! After five grueling minutes, I managed to successfully hit 100 reps with about ten seconds to spare! I should mention that I did this without SFG supervision, which meant some of my reps could have been “no counts”. However, this was offset by the fact that I put the bell down twice during the test in order to rest, and had I pushed through those rest periods, I would have plenty more time to bang off more reps. Overall, while this may have been a bit too close for comfort for some, it marked the destruction of a huge mental barrier, and I now knew for certain that I was capable of passing. I didn’t let this get to my head though, as this result didn’t presuppose that I would pass when it really counted. However, armed with new found confidence, this marked the end of my high intensity training, and I began a 10-day taper period in order to get ready for the real test.



Overall the SFG weekend was one of the hardest physical tasks I’ve challenged myself to do.  From day one, you’re squatting, pressing, and hinging over and over again, and over three days, you accumulate so much volume of exercise from perfecting your technique. Then, once your glutes, hamstrings and back are on fire from the weekend, you have to dig down deep in order to pass all the tests, and I ended up passing the snatch test with less than ten seconds to spare.  Here are some quick recommendations to have a successful weekend:

  1. Get a SFG certified coach to help your technique. Clearly this made the biggest difference in my preparation.  While you learn, practice and refine your technique over the entire weekend, I don’t think I would have passed the tests if I had attempted to self-coach myself through my training.

  2. Practice with hardstyle kettlebells as much as possible. The handles of these bells are much thicker than competition-style bells, and therefore they tax your grip much, much more. It was definitely a big adjustment doing all my practicing and technique work with comp bells, and then having to quickly adjust to the thicker handles of the cast iron bells.

  3. Use ‘sock sleeves’ to save your hands. Take an old pair of socks, cut off a thick strip from the elastic portion, and wear them on your hands throughout the SFG course. The sheer number of reps you will perform over the course of the weekend will eventually tear your hands up, so plan ahead.

  4. Gain some mass, if possible. Just like any strength sport, it is advantageous to be at the top of your weight class.
  5. Have a rep/rest strategy,  I didn’t have much of a strategy going into it, I just ripped off as many reps as I could before I got tired.  I banged off my first 60 reps VERY fast, probably in less than 2.5 minutes – my reps went something like 10/10/10/10/10/5/5. But after that, I was gassed and had to put the bell down several times to take a break.  Practice which rep strategy works for you, and stick to it during your test.